Snake Oil Science

Snake Oil Science

The Truth About Complementary and Alternative Medicine

Book - 2007
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Millions of people worldwide swear by such therapies as acupuncture, herbal cures, and homeopathic remedies. Indeed, complementary and alternative medicine is embraced by a broad spectrum of society, from ordinary people, to scientists and physicians, to celebrities such as Prince Charles andOprah Winfrey. In the tradition of Michael Shermers Why People Believe Weird Things and Robert Parks's Voodoo Science, Barker Bausell provides an engaging look at the scientific evidence for complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) and at the logical, psychological, and physiological pitfalls that leadotherwise intelligent people--including researchers, physicians, and therapists--to endorse these cures. The books ultimate goal is to reveal not whether these therapies work--as Bausell explains, most do work, although weakly and temporarily--but whether they work for the reasons their proponentsbelieve. Indeed, as Bausell reveals, it is the placebo effect that accounts for most of the positive results. He explores this remarkable phenomenon--the biological and chemical evidence for the placebo effect, how it works in the body, and why research on any therapy that does not factor in theplacebo effect will inevitably produce false results. By contrast, as Bausell shows in an impressive survey of research from high-quality scientific journals and systematic reviews, studies employing credible placebo controls do not indicate positive effects for CAM therapies over and above thoseattributable to random chance. Here is not only an entertaining critique of the strangely zealous world of CAM belief and practice, but it also a first-rate introduction to how to correctly interpret scientific research of any sort. Readers will come away with a solid understanding of good vs. bad research practice and ahealthy skepticism of claims about the latest miracle cure, be it St. John's Wort for depression or acupuncture for chronic pain.
Publisher: Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 2007
ISBN: 9780195313680
0195313682
Characteristics: xix, 324 p. : ill. ; 22 cm

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This book is always available in the PlaneTree Health Information Center @ Cupertino Library. EA 100 B 2007

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jimmyjunga
Aug 06, 2010

This book is a truly excellent review of all of the existing scientific research in the CAM arena. It includes in-depth reviews of the research in all of the major CAM modalities on a paper-by-paper basis. Perhaps more usefully, it explains, with a keen eye toward methodological issues, how research in this field is often flawed; and when it is done properly, shows no helpful clinical effect.

It also explains the reasons why many people believe that CAM treatments are effective, even when they are not. By understanding regression to the mean, confirmation bias, and many other cognitive traps, we can understand why the real evidence of whether a CAM treatment is effective is scientific, not anecdotal. People will often believe that something which has been studied and rejected is effective because it 'works for them.' This reasoning is deconstructedand roundly demolished.

The unavoidable conclusion of this excellent book is that CAM therapies have not proven to be effective, and rely on faulty thinking and a distrust of the scientific method to thrive.

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arbuckle
Dec 30, 2009

This is a good book to learn about the methodology used to evaluate medical treatments, and what constitutes a good medical study to evaluate CAM. And about placebos (which work--for a while, and up to a point).

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